Tuesday, October 6, 2015

The importance of artistic confidence

Red and blue ballpoint pens, and a mechanical B pencil.

My style in drawing is very sketchy. I'd take cross-hatching over a smooth gradient any day. I think there is beauty in the natural stroke of pencil on paper. Back before I had found my style, I tried fingers, Q-tips, and even tortillions in order to achieve smoother shading in my very rendered drawings. And sure, there's a place for that, especially in coal and pastel drawings, but I just don't find it especially interesting. Shading isn't supposed to be subtle or discrete, and there is definitely room for artistic boldness.

I tried something different with this drawing. I'm not really diverging from my chosen style, it's more of an experiment. While I don't think it's bad, it's definitely disappointing. First of all, the red lines aren't stylistically consistent. They form round and organic curves around the breast and arm areas, while they become rigid lines on the legs and face. That's one problem.

The biggest problem is that it looks sketchy in a bad way. Sometimes I admire what some people can do with a limited amount of brush strokes. How the pencil just seems to leave a perfect mark all on it's own. Sketching and that sketchy style is really all about achieving as much as possible as simply and easily as possible, and this just isn't doing that. While it's definitely sketchy, it lacks the element of organization that makes it a good kind of sketchy. We're looking for organized chaos, but this is just chaos.

I think a lot of people make a mistake in not allowing their drawings to look chaotic. Many people I know almost seem like they're trying to hide the fact that it takes pencil or ink marks to create a drawing. They draw like they want what they're doing in the painting to be so insignificant, that no one could tell the difference. I advice people not to do that. You don't have to abandon your style, just experiment a bit. Give something stylistically different a proper go. Be bold. You don't have to like your drawings, but be confident when you draw them, because they will be better that way.

Using a tortillion or smoothing over your pencil marks is just like how a beginner artist might draw in what you'd call chicken scratch. Lines that aren't really strokes, just a collection of scratches that together are supposed to represent some form of distinction. Truthfully, a simple, confidently drawn line is so much better. The same principle of confidence can be applied to shading, and gradients. It's nicer to see a confidently drawn but choppier gradient, with the edges of areas of different value visible, than a sheepishly smudged-over smooth gradient.

But these are only the principles behind MY style. You don't have to agree, but don't write off the value of experimenting stylistically. You can learn a lot by putting yourself out of your comfort zone - different styles exercise separate, and perhaps new, artistic subskills that might be bottlenecking your development as an artist.

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